May 19, 2021 

Lynx struggle with defense, identity in 0-2 start

Reeve: 'We're still trying to figure out who we are'

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(Photo via Lynx Twitter)

For the first time under General Manager and Head Coach Cheryl Reeve, the Minnesota Lynx are starting the season 0-2. The Lynx haven’t lost their first two games since 2007, when they started the season 0-7. Two games is just that — two games. But a surprising 86-75 loss against the New York Liberty Tuesday night does raise several questions about how Minnesota can get back on track.

“We’re still trying to figure out who we are,” Reeve told reporters postgame. A team with high expectations, it’s easy to forget that the team is still learning who they are. On paper, they’re a contender. On the court, they’re still figuring out their flow.

“I don’t think we have a team that’s in very good shape. Our offseason preparation didn’t even scratch the surface of what it needed to be,” said Reeve. “What I see is a team that is trying to perform while being tired in some key positions and that’s pretty unfortunate. It’s either that or teams are just playing harder than us and have a greater will. So, I’m not sure the answer to that just yet. I just know that we’ve got to work really hard to become a much better basketball team and it doesn’t get any easier with Seattle’s defending champs coming to town.”

In the loss to the Liberty, the Lynx struggled to land shots, shooting just 37.8% and 13% beyond the arc. Aerial Powers was held to just 5 points and coming off the bench, Crystal Dangerfield shot 0-for-7. The Lynx couldn’t contain Betnijah Laney who shot 66.7% with 20 points and Sabrina Ionescu, who achieved a triple-double (only the 10th in WNBA history).

The disappointment in their own performance was palpable during the Lynx post game zoom with media.

“I think that in these first two games we have spurts where (the effort) is there, and we’re really good and you know, we’re connected and then there’s times where we’re not and I think that that’s what we have to figure out. And that’s the number one way to figure out what your identity is, is by pushing through the hard moments,” said Kayla McBride.

Powers, who shot just 18% with 4 rebounds added, “I’ve got to be a better defensive player for my team, (with) more energy, and the shots are not always gonna fall but we have to be able to hold each other accountable on the defensive end. I think we need to start there and let our defense lead to our offense.”

It’s a frustrating start to the season, but the Lynx will soon be at full strength with Napheesa Collier, who has returned stateside and is currently working through COVID protocols — Collier must pass six negative tests before rejoining the team. It’s unlikely the Lynx will have Collier back in the lineup for Thursday’s home game against reigning WNBA Champs, the Seattle Storm. The Lynx will still need to work out who they are without Collier, for the time being. 

“Right now, we’ve got a lot of mixed emotions going on. We got half (of the) team who knows what to do and half that (is) still a little bit confused, so we got to find some kind of way to put that together.” said Sylvia Fowles, who finished the game with 26 points and 11 rebounds, moving passed Maya Moore for second on the Lynx all-time rebound leader board with 1,590 career rebounds.

Fowles snagged another career-defining stat when she grabbed her ninth defensive rebound, bringing her total career defensive rebounds to 2,425, tying Lisa Leslie for the most defensive rebounds in WNBA history.

Though it’s another tough loss, the Lynx still had glimmers of promise. Fowles looks more comfortable on the court and more like herself, shooting just under 65%. Coming off the bench, Jessica Shepard notched 12 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and, along with McBride, shot 5-for-5 at the line. With no points recorded, Dangerfield still had 6 assists, 3 rebounds and 3 steals.

An 0-2 start and struggling to find their identity is not how the Lynx envisioned kicking off their 2021 season. With plenty of season ahead of them, there’s a general belief among players that it’s only a matter of time until they find their flow.

“It is all about the will of what (you’re) willing to do for your team and I think once we get past that point we’ll be okay,” said Fowles, “I think we made a step in the right direction, but it is definitely not what we want it to be.”

Written by Alyssa Graham

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